DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A group of environmental advocates lauded Thursday the plan of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez on engaging communist rebels for development projects.

In a statement, Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment commended Lopez for her “introspection on how armed conflict is rooted in social injustices.”

In an ABS-CBN news report, Lopez told a business forum that she planned to include NPAs for development projects in mining communities in Agusan del Norte province.

She said in Agusan del Norte province alone, an estimate of P100 million is available annually for development projects in host communities. The fund comes from a portion of the companies’ operating costs.

Lopez said she already asked the President if she can work with the NPA.

Bautista said the NPA can help the government in enforcing the cancellation of mining agreements in the area.

“In Agusan del Norte, the DENR and the NPA can particularly cooperate in establishing ‘rainforestation’ and agricultural development programs, and can help assess and facilitate the closure and cleanup of mining-polluted areas within the revolutionary forces’ territories,” Bautista added.

The DENR in February cancelled a total of 75 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs), including the permits of Asia Alstron Mining and Phil Alstron Mining located in Agusan del Norte.

However, none of the commercially operating large-scale mines in Agusan del Norte were suspended or closed after the DENR audit.

“These large-scale mining corporations have not only caused direct adverse ecological impacts, but have brought with them military and paramilitary groups that terrorize communities opposing their big mines,” Bautista said.

He said Lopez and the NPAs can cooperate in “ensuring that the ecological rehabilitation and development projects break away from the tradition of Social Development and Management (SDMP) programs of mining companies that are used to divide and conquer communities, instead of genuinely developing their socio-economic stature.”(davaotoday.com)

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